Einsiedeln, the main place of pilgrimage in Switzerland
DIDIER HEUMANN, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS
We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.
For this stage, here is the link:
It is obviously not the case for all pilgrims to be comfortable with reading GPS and routes on a laptop, and there are still many places without an Internet connection. Therefore, you can find a book on Amazon that deals with this course. Click on the title of the book to open Amazon.
If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.
Today, after walking for a long time on the extraordinary wooden bridge that spans the bay of Zürich Lake, you will walk in the footsteps of Meinrad, a monk who lived in the XIth century, first on the heights of Einsiedeln, where the route runs, before joining and developing the future Einsiedeln. The Convent of Einsiedeln is one of the religious places that welcome a large number of visitors. Each year, more than 500,000 pilgrims come there from all over the world to see and venerate the Black Madonna. It is also here that was born, among the gray cows of primitive Switzerland, the great and astonishing Paracelsus, both philosopher and alchemist, great precursor of the medicine that will later come to that of today. The landscapes and rural life here are of breathtaking majesty.
Difficulty of the course: Slope variations are significant for such a short stage (+676 meters/-173 meters). It is first an easy walk to Pfäffikon, then it is a difficult stage to Etzel pass. The climb to Luegeten is quite demanding, with inclines of up to 30%. Then, the slope often becomes a little less severe, but still with some fairly demanding bumps, with slopes exceeding 20%. Beyond Etzel Pass, the route slopes down quite regularly to the Sihl River, to climb again later, sometimes quite steeply, to the heights of Einsiedeln. The descent to the city is easy.
In this stage, the courses on the tarmac exceed the courses on the pathways:
- Paved roads: 9.8 km
- Dirt roads: 6.2 km
Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.
It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.
For “real slopes”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.
We have divided the route into several sections, to facilitate visibility. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the route and the state of Via Jacobi.
Section 1: A grand and amazing walk on the lake.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|Via Jacobi leaves Rapperswil from the harbor, runs back under the road and the railway line to quickly find itself in front of the wooden bridge which crosses the lake.|
|The bridge, a paradise for joggers in the early morning, quickly passes in front of the so-called Heilig Hüsli chapel, dating from the year 1551, resting on the single stone pillar of the bridge. Everything is magic here, the structure of the bridge, the gray planks as if thrown on the water, the surrounding nature. People walk around here like they would visit the Taj Mal, with almost a religious feeling.|
|This bridge is just a marvel. It crosses a good part of the lake, in the middle of the reeds. The water in the lake is sometimes so clear that you can see the fish swimming. Duke Rudolf IV of Austria, the ruler of Rapperswil, had the first wooden bridge built between Rapperswil and Hurden around 1358, possibly for pilgrims, but also for commercial reasons. In 1878, a dyke was erected which was used to cross the new bridge, and later the railway line.|
|A little further on, the bridge joins the dyke. In front of you stretches Zürich Lake in the distance.|
On this miracle of men, there are fishermen, but also dreamers who never cease to marvel at the panorama offered to them.
|At the end of the bridge, Via Jacobi follows the dike for a while before heading towards the mainland.|
|The route then heads to Hurden, a small resort and residence village by the lake.|
|It must be said. When you had the privilege of strolling on the wooden planks of the bridge, beyond Hurden, it is no longer at all joy, pleasure and fullness. Up to Pfäffikon station (7,500 inhabitants), this will not be the most exciting route of the day. It takes about half an hour to get there. You have to cross the narrow dike, share the cycle path, in the middle of the traffic. You left the canton of St Gall and you are now in the canton of Schwyz. Pfäffikon is getting closer.|
The only beautiful panorama is when the lake merges on both sides of the road.
Section 2: A serious bump towards Luegeten.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: look at the profile, you will not be disappointed. Right out of Pfäffikon, it’s 100 meters of elevation per kilometer.
|At one point, you can cross to the other side of the road and walk along the railway line. But, you can just as well stay on the road to the station. Anyway, you have to reach the station, in a city that is not the most beautiful in the region. It is above all a city where companies flock. Here, taxes for companies are close to 10%. Total happiness, right? So too bad, you’ll rather live in Rapperswil.|
|Near the station, Via Jacobi slopes up to the top of the city, direction Etzelpass.|
|The route winds its way to the exit of the city between stairs and narrow streets, in the middle of recent houses, more rarely old.|
|Above, you leave the city. A small pathway then crosses the meadows in the countryside. Farms are back, often less beautiful than in the canton of St Gallen.|
|You will then arrive at the place called Im Gräfi, from where starts the road to Etzel Pass. Here you cross the highway, a noisy road, because it is the main axis that goes from Zürich to the Gotthard.|
|Here is a very steep climb to Luegeten on a small pathway that winds through the meadows. A real treat for athletes, a nightmare for others, it depends, awaits you here.|
|To catch your breath, you can turn around to admire the view across the lake to Rapperswil.|
|The slope here is really tough, and when it exceeds 30%, small stairs help the walker.|
|Throughout the climb, you can hear the hubbub of the highway below. The noises rise, it is well known, and disturb the physique and the morale of the walker. Almost at the top of the hill, you can see Luegeten above. When the slope is steep, it is often better to turn around to see how far you have come, and not look up to see the task that remains to be done, right?|
|A few more small stairs and the pathway reeaches the pass road at Luegeten. Undoubtedly, a deliverance for many.|
|Luegeten is almost exclusively a panoramic restaurant, where Swiss and foreigners from the Zurich and St. Gallen basin flock. These people come by car, and here you hear all the languages.|
But the terrace is welcome, of course. From up there, you can take a last look at Zürich Lake.
Here in Luegeten the sign shows that you are on Via Jacobi 84 and not Via Jacobi 4. This is true. The real Via Jacobi 4, which you will follow in the annex stage, does not pass here. But, it is the Camino de Compostela for people who have passed through Rapperswil, perhaps the majority.
|Here, Via Jacobi climbs a little on the Etzel pass road before finding a small Not far away, the small Sumelenbach stream flows here in the forest. The path soon reaches a large clearing.
that climbs into the forest.
|A little higher, the pathway intersects the pass road which has made a bend.|
|In the forest, a little higher, nature is magic. The feet stumble on the sprawling roots of the beeches. These trees with shallow roots, play octopuses and extend their arms which wind on the ground, like gorgonians. A real treat for Sunday cyclists!|
|Not far away, the small Sumelenbach stream flows here in the forest. The pathway soon reaches a large clearing.|
|Further afield, you get at a place called Schnäggenburg where the road to the pass also runs. This is not the road to Einsiedeln. It is only a small narrow mountain road, used by mountain enthusiasts to go to the Etzel pass. From here, you can also join the real Via Jacobi 4 which comes from Schmerikon, but there is no reason to go there./td>|
|The pathway climbs again on the edge of the forest.|
|Then it returns to the forest. With their imposing silhouettes, their branches adorned with lichens, the trunks of the beeches rise very high in the sky, like Gothic cathedrals, and intertwine their foliage with that of the white firs and the spruces, which do not be left in the lurch. Gradually, the slope becomes less steep.|
|You are in the forest of Bannwald, and soon a small refuge appears in a clearing, in the middle of the spruces.|
|Here is the Gruebi refuge, built in 2016 near the Bannwald forest. Here you can find cut wood, matches and even a saw for cutting wood. The people here are quite exceptional.|
|Next door stands another shed full of charm, where bees forage.|
Section 3: Up there, in the good monk’s hermitage.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: ups and downs with some difficulty.
|At the refuge, you are not very far from the pass. The slope is, for a moment, less steep in the forest where, with the altitude, the spruces then reign. Many small streams from the Giessenbach flow here, although it is difficult to determine a precise route.|
Here again, indications show possibilities of joining the other track. It is also a little higher that Via Jacobi 4 also arrives, which does not pass through Rapperswil, and which comes from Schmerikon, via Siebenen.
|At the exit of the wood, the pathway passes very close to the road to the pass. It is not a congested road, because it is only a very secondary axis which goes towards Einsiedeln. The pathway runs near anti-tank barriers, built in the last century, when the Swiss army was, in number, one of the largest in Europe. But what enemy army would have been wandering up there?|
|Soon, St Meinrad appears on top of the mountain.|
|Another small, very steep embankment, and Via Jacobi reaches the Etzel pass, 928 meters above sea level. You climbed more than 500 meters from the lake.|
|The chapel of St. Meinrad, erected at the end of the XVIIth century, and the adjoining inn (modified since) would have been built where Meinrad, a monk from Reichenau, lived in the IXth century, before joining and developing the future Einsiedeln. Two crows lived near the hermit. According to legend, Meinrad was murdered by two robbers. The heraldic emblem of Einsiedeln represents two ravens.
Today you can comfort your soul in the chapel and your body in the inn. The restaurant terrace overlooks the Einsiedeln valley below. You can even stay there. The site is magnificent, imbued with serenity.
|A road descends from the pass in a pleasant landscape. A real postcard of Switzerland, with everything you need: farms, green grass, cows, and mountains peeking out on the horizon.|
|The road passes a little further down in front of a Christmas tree farm.|
|It descends, through meadows and cows, until you find the Hotel Krone, near the bridge over the Sihl River.|
It was here (but not at the Hotel Krone) that Paracelsus was born in 1493, born Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He spent most of his life in Salzburg, where he died there. He was an innovative doctor-surgeon in therapy, coupled with a great philosopher, initiating the turn from galenist medicine, centered on the four humors, towards modern medicine based on biochemistry, by destabilizing the galenic and Aristotelian edifices and by opening the way to experimental physiology. The thought of Paracelsus is the starting point of the long process of separating chemistry from alchemy. The work of many scholars over two and a half centuries made it possible to free themselves from the metaphysical excesses of Paracelsus and by relying on laboratory experiments to lead to the chemical revolution of Lavoisier in the 1XVIIIth century. It is still surprising to find Paracelsus here, among the gray cows of so-called primitive Switzerland!
|Via Jacobi crosses here the Devil’s Bridge, a magnificent stone bridge with its wooden roof, which dates from 1700. It was built to transport the stones from the Etzel quarry to Einsiedeln for the construction of the new monastery. Crossing the bridge was an important milestone for the ancient pilgrims to Compostela.
The Sihl River originates in the mountains of the canton of Schwyz, crosses the lake of the same name near Einsiedeln, and flows into the Limmat River, in Zürich. To see, it looks like a fairly turbulent river.
Here, advertising is made for the Hotel St Joseph in Einsiedeln, the hotel for pilgrims.
|Beyond the bridge, the road climbs a little towards the few houses of Meieren hamlet, but you don’t stay on the axis for long. Quite quickly, a pathway forks in the meadows.|
|It crosses a small stream, a tributary of the Sihl River, and climbs moderately in an undergrowth, where mainly hardwood trees stand, including ash and beech. The little gray cows will certainly watch you pass with kindness. These cows are not aggressive.|
|Then, across meadows on a steep slope, Via Jacobi joins a wider pathway which will climb more steeply towards the top of the hill. The peasants enjoy, here too, a carriage way suitable for their tractors. Come on! We will say that we understand, given the slope of the meadows here.|
|A little up, a small road leads to the farms of Chlammeren.|
Here, a refreshment bar is not only used to eat, it also offers artisanal beauty products. What happiness for the walker!
Section 4: Downhil to Einsideln, at Meinrad’s monastery.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: : course without any difficulty.
|Beyond the hamlet, the road climbs again very slightly to reach a high plateau. In front of you, in the mountain range, you can see the two bumps made by the Mythen mountains. The route runs there the next day.|
You’ll reach the place called Höchmatt (high meadow). You are here at the same altitude as at the Etzel pass. The sign announces Einsiedeln about 1 hour walk.
|Here, Via Jacobi begins a very light descent on the road, the old Etzel pass road. On the horizon, you can see Sihl Lake, a large mountain lake where the river flows, and Einsiedeln at the bottom of the depression.|
|On the way, there is a memorial at Galgenchappeli, there are two plaques telling the story of three local revolutionary people who died under the sword of the executioner and whose heads were nailed here, in 1766.|
|The road approaches Lake Sihl, but does not go there. The lake is all in harmony, in its blue waters, as often the glacial lakes.|
|You approach Einsiedeln and the religious signs multiply on the way.|
|Then the slope increases a little on the road.|
|Einsiedeln is still protected today by an anti-tank barrier. You see that the city extends in a wide plain, with the Mythen on the horizon.|
|Via Jacobi then arrives in Einsiedeln, on Alte Etzelstrasse, but you are still quite far from the center of the city.|
|There is still a bit of countryside here.|
|The road runs along a fairly new part of the city, without much character, shall we say.|
|It approaches the abbey, crossing the Chapel of St Gangulf, which dates from the beginning of the XIth century. Old illustrated chronicles show that the Camino de Santiago passed directly inside the chapel. The building was restored during the Second World War.|
|Via Jacobi then reaches the city center of Einsiedeln (11,000 inhabitants), famous for its monastery, but also for its ski jumps, where in winter, and in summer too, international ski jumping competitions are organized.|
|The monastery is dedicated to Our Lady of the Hermits, enthroned on a gigantic square, often filled during the day and on Sundays. The convent of Einsiedeln is one of the religious places that welcome the most visitors. Each year, more than 500,000 pilgrims come there from all over the world to see and venerate the Black Madonna.|
The fountain of the Virgin is in the center of the square. Many pilgrims drink from its source. Originally, it is the source of St Meinrad. It is attributed therapeutic virtues.
|We have already mentioned that Meinrad, who came from Reichenau, a Benedictine house created on an island in the Rhine, first settled as a hermit, from 828, near the Etzel pass. Then, he went down to Einsiedeln, at that time in the middle of the forest, to live in a few rooms, with a small chapel, as a place of worship. In 861, he was killed by robbers who rammed his skull in.
The hermitage of St. Meinrad then remained abandoned for 40 years. Other monks took over the hermitage. They restored the chapel and cleared the surrounding area. In 934, the small monastic community, obeying the Rule of St. Benedict, grew and a first Abbot was appointed. In 947, the Emperor Othon recognized the monastery and conferred on the abbots the dignity of princes of the Empire. Einsiedeln shone brightly in the Xth and XIth centuries, and its influence spread over southern Germany. From the XIVth century, its pilgrimage attracted crowds. It must be said that it was in 1286 that mention was made, for the first time, of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. On the altar where Meinrad said his prayers, a chapel was built, the place where the Chapel of the Graces is now located, where pilgrims from all over the world have come and still come to meditate with the Black Madonna.
Then followed a difficult period with many fires, friction between the cantonal authorities and the monastery, the Reformation. In 1577, a last fire destroyed the village and a large part of the monastery. Reconstruction was undertaken. In 1683, the Chapel of Graces, containing the precious statue and the old chapel of the hermits, was transformed, completely clad in black marble at the expense of the Archbishop of Salzburg. The almost total reconstruction of the monastery was decided in 1702. The current facade, with its high towers, was completed in 1724. The grandiose square in front of the church was laid out from 1745 to 1747. It was the middle of the Baroque era, and the buildings were so designed. In the XVIIth century, given the growing number of pilgrims, some transformations were made in the naves, in the surroundings of the Chapel of Graces and in the layout of the great organs.
Let’s go inside the church.
|Fans of late Baroque and Rococo will find their happiness here. The object of devotion is in the Chapel of the Graces, the black virgin, the Madonna of the Hermits. The statue, made of pear wood, measures approximately 1 meter. Of unknown origin, it would have been brought here in the middle of the XVth century. Originally, the face and the hands were painted but the soot of the candles that were burned ended up blackening them. It was then decided to paint the main parts of the statue black. Despite successive fires, the statue and its chapel remained intact. The Virgin was brought to safety during the occupation of French troops during the Revolution of 1798.
Before each major religious festival, the statue changes its costume and the monks change its toilet several times a year, in red, purple, white, blue or Persian robes. There are no less than 33 ceremonial outfits, made of precious fabrics, embellished with jewels, gold crowns, necklaces, pearl rosaries or diamond earrings. There is a person in charge of the Marian wardrobe at the convent. Covering a Black Madonna is not the prerogative of Einsiedeln. People practice the same, for example in Puy-en-Velay or Rocamadour.
In the Catholic liturgy, the beginning of a Jubilee year is always solemnly marked by the opening of the Holy Door by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. But, in this Jubilee of Mercy, Pope François wished that in each diocese there be a holy door so that everyone throughout the world can take a Jubilee process. Einsiedeln made the move by erecting a door in front of the church.
|The gigantic abbey contains 4 inner courtyards. In addition to the apartments for the monks, it includes a school, workshops, a cellar for the abbey’s wine, stables housing the horses bred by the monks, and a library which is not open to the public. The monastic library contains manuscripts and books dating back to the founding of the monastery in the Xth century. Today there are about fifty monks. The canton of Schwyz is a predominantly Catholic canton.|
|The life of the city is concentrated near the church and the adjacent streets. Beautiful buildings adorn the square, including the Baroque Rathhaus or the Hotel St Joseph, an institution here.|
|Even the banks are entitled to their frills here.|
|That Sunday, there was a crowd in Einsiedeln. It wasn’t just ski jumpers training for the jumping competition. It was an Alpine festival that you hardly see any more except in German-speaking Switzerland, in the big towns. “The Swiss milks his cow and lives happily. ” said Victor Hugo. Nothing has changed on the entire route of the Camino de Compostela, up to Lausanne. Cows, more cows, nothing but cows. In Einsiedeln, there was a crowd to watch the procession of whippersnappers, but especially bell ringers. All that was missing were the alphorn players and the breeches wrestlers, to tour the Swiss folk heritage.|
|And after this rather dissonant symphony, the break takes place of course in the canteen, to the sounds of a traditional orchestra. Of course, it is better to ignore the canteen and enter one of the restaurants, where you will eat the best Rösti (roasted patatoes)on the planet.|
Lodging on Via Jacobi
|Hotel, dinner, breakfast||Hotel-restaurant Rössli, Hudnerstrasse 137||055 416 21 21|
|Guestroom (straw), dinner, breakfast||Familie Dillier, Lützerhof, Etzelstrasse 126||055 420 21 93/079 604 14 50
|Guestroom, breakfast||Ferienwohnung Kählin, Pilgerweg 36||055 410 56 20/079 240 35 72|
|Hotel****, dinner, breakfast||Seedamm Plaza, Seedammstrasse,3||055 417 17 17|
|Hotel, dinner, breakfast||Gasthaus St Meinrad||055 412 25 34|
|Gîte Christian, dinner, breakfast||Kloster Einsiedeln||055 418 61 57|
|Youth hostel||Jugend un Bildungszentrum, Lincolnweg 23||055 418 88 88|
|Guestroom, breakfast||B&B Wissmüli, Weissmühlestrasse 3||055 412 51 58|
|Hotel (zen), dinner, breakfast||Zen Ermita, Etzelstrasse 38||078 408 10 89/076 405 05 67|
|Hotel, breakfast||Hotel Sankt Joseph, Am Klosterplatz||055 412 21 51|
|Hotel**, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Allegro, Lincolnweg 23||055 418 88 88|
|Hotel**, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Sonne, Hauptstrasse 82||055 412 28 21|
|Hotel***, breakfast||Hotel Sankt Georg, Hauptstasse 72||055 418 24 24|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Drei Könige, Paracelsuspark 1||055 418 00 00|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Linde, Schmidedenstrasse 28||055 418 48 48|
|There is no difficulty of finding accommodation on this stage. Book anyway for security.|
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